Major US retailer Best Buy is one company that has been taking mobile commerce seriously, and the mobile site was among the examples we used in our recent Mobile E-commerce Best Practice Guide.
Best Buy also has a recently updated iPhone app, so I've been trying this out, and seeing how it compares to the mobile site...
Search and navigation
The app's 'homepage' is neat, well laid out, and has been kept simple:
The major categories in the store are represented by images, which aids quick scanning, and the search box is placed prominently on the page. Underneath, the five menu options allow users to see the latest deals, review the shopping cart, or find a local Best Buy store.
For navigation, clicking one of the images will open up the sub-categories, and you can normally find the product you want in four or five steps. I found that, even on wi-fi, loading a long list of products (iPods for example) was slow, so this may be a problem on an outdoor 3G connection.
The search option returns accurate results, but the lack of options to filter and sort product results is a major flaw. This may be fine for some products, but search for an iPod and you will get more results than you can handle.
As shown in the screenshot above, the results are populated by various accessories, meaning that a user looking for an iPod has a lot of scrolling and loading of extra results to do. I loaded five different pages of results (with ten results per page) without seeing an actual iPod.
On a 3G connection this is too time-consuming for customers, and the problem could be solved with some simple filters for things like accessories/MP3 filters etc.
Indeed, the mobile site does this much better than the app; providing a good range of options to narrow product searches:
The product pages are very good. The information is clearly laid out and kept simple, but the detail is there for those that want it.
The product descriptions are detailed enough, price images etc are all there. A good example of a mobile product page.
A review summary score is shown, which is always useful for customers, while a link to the reviews is provided for people who would like to read more.
The 'add to cart' button is prominently placed, large enough that it cannot be missed, and is in a colour that contrasts well with the rest of the page, as a call to action should be.
Which brings me to the major problem with this app. Everytime I tried to add something to my cart, the app crashed. And having crashed, I am instantly kicked out again when I reopen the app. In fact, to get back into it at all, I had to delete the app and download it again.
Maybe most users don't have this problem, but the reviews on the App Store suggest otherwise. An average review score of two and a half out of five from 37 ratings, including 16 one star scores, indicates a problem on an otherwise decent app.
I don't know whether Best Buy is aware of this problem or not, but it needs to be fixed as quickly as possible.
This fault also means I cannot review the checkout process on the app. However, if it uses the mobile site's checkout, shown below, then the process should be well designed and easy to use.
For multichannel retailers, store locators on mobile sites and apps are a great way to drive customers in store, as well as appealing to comparison shoppers using their mobiles.
A good store locator tool should make it easy to find the local stores, while providing extras such as information on store facilities (Cafes, parking etc) and a map for directions are desirable.
The Best Buy store locator is basic, but does the job well enough. It will use GPS to find the nearest store, but I had to try a zipcode instead in this case, though the option to enter the name of the town or city would be useful for those customers that may not know the zipcode.
The Best Buy iPhone app is, up to a point, very well designed and relatively easy to use. The look of the app is good, the product pages, reviews etc are excellent, though it does need some effective 'narrow search' options to make the site search and navigation more usable.
There also seems to be a major bug which needs fixing, detracts from the good points of the app, and will be deterring plenty of customers from using the app again.